Season 2007/08 News Archive

Tunbridge Wells manager Martin Farnie is keeping faith with the squad that finished their Kent League campaign in the bottom three - but begins the search for new strikers to turn around their fortunes. “I know where I’m going with the budget and stuff (and) I am happy. It ain’t going to be a great difference from what I had last year to be honest.”

Farnie believes the experienced players that finished last season - and new faces - will improve matters at Culverden Stadium next term. “There’s about three or four I want to add to it,” he said. “Until I speak to them and see their availability, and see their expenses, I have to see if I get them or not. We had a good team at the end (of last season), but I’d like to add a couple of forwards to the squad - that’s what I’m looking for.”

Farnie said that he’ll be contacting his players to see if they want to stay at the west Kent club next season. He said: “Probably start this week, have a chat with most of the players (but) most of the players have gone away. I’ve still got the same lads from last year. None of them have told me they’re leaving.”

But whilst Kent clubs higher up in the football pecking order unveil their retained lists, the Kent League transfer market is a lot quieter at this time of the year as players tend to settle their futures around pre-season training. “No-one’s committed themselves yet,” explained Farnie, whose side return to pre-season training on Saturday, 30th June. “They’re all seeing whose paying them the most money - so I’ve got plenty of time.”

But any new faces will have to stay for the long-haul. “I’ll just have a chat with them and try to say what we are trying to achieve over the next three to four seasons,” said Farnie. “I want people to come here with a bit of life in them but not come here for a season and disappear. I want players who are young and hungry for it.” Also on Farnie’s wish-list is a suitable training venue.

Tunbridge Wells have today announced that former Rye United manager and Hythe Town coach, Mike Robbins has been appointed as new reserve team manager. Robbins, a UEFA B Licensed coach, previously fulfilled the same role at Ryman League club Ashford Town. Robbins has acted quickly to secure the services of Martin Larkin as his assistant manager and John Whittaker as his player-coach. Larkin worked with Robbins at Ashford.

Promising young striker Dave Blundell has signed for neighbours Rusthall ahead of their Kent County League Premier Division season. Blundell had a successful season shredding defences with Mike D'Arcy's reserves in 2005/06 before stepping up into The Wells first team squad last season. With five of his eight first team goals coming in the FA Vase against step six opposition, step seven teams had better beware as Dave pulls on the green shirt in the new campaign.

The Wells U18 team is currently in Sweden taking part in a World Youth Football Tournament where, under the watchful eye of manager Gary Sharman, they are pitting their skills against teams from all over the planet. In their first game they played against a bigger, stronger team from Sweden (Askims IK) but ran out 1-0 winners. The boys were on a real high after this win and were hoping to take the momentum into the next game in their group against Memphis FC from the USA. Another 1-0 win against the Americans saw The Wells go to the top of their group. JK Maag Tammeka of Estonia were next up, and although The Wells were beaten 1-0 in this final group match, the six points earned from the earlier two wins was enough to see the club through to the next phase, where Swedish outfit Upsala IF were the opponents. A 5-1 defeat brought an end to participation in the competition, but the lads bring some excellent experiences back to the UK with them.

We are pleased to bring you the following update from Gary Stevens:

"I am amazed that the process of acquiring Tunbridge Wells Football Club has taken so long and is still far from concluded. There are numerous reasons behind the delay including the invalid appointment of Trustee’s in the past, the alleged failure to maintain Culverden Stadium in accordance with the Lease, and certain parties who have become uncooperative having previously voted in favour of the change of structure for the future improvement of the club.

“Currently we are at least two months behind where I intended the Club to be at this stage, and every day and week that passes by leaves us further disadvantaged for the coming season. Martin Farnie and his coaching staff have had excellent training facilities made available to them for pre-season and this will apply throughout the coming season, but with so much uncertainty a number of players who had wanted to join the club and increase competition for places have reluctantly stayed put. The coming season will be far more difficult than Martin and I had hoped, but anything good is worth waiting for and in time Tunbridge Wells FC will flourish and thrive both on and off the pitch”.

27/07/2007 - PLAYERS SIGN
Players have been busy putting pen to paper for the coming season. Signed so far are in no particular order: Justin Shea, Ben Hilden, Steve Gibbons, Mike McKeown, Sam Phillips, Andy Garrett, Adrian Hatcher, Elliott Everson. Brad Sandeman, Michael Graham, Ross Campbell, Jason Bourne, Lloyd Gofton, Terry Ratchford, Andy Mills, Ben Starkey, Greg Thurstans, Mike Lord, John Lord and Dave Forster.

At this stage we are attempting to find out where some of the new players have come from. However we do know that midfielder Terry Ratchford joins from VCD, Andy Mills (midfield) and Dave Forster (defender) were with Lordswood and John Lord (midfield) and Mike Lord (forward) join from Tonbridge Invicta.

Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper Jimmy Simpson has opted to retire from Kent League football as a result of the ankle injury he picked up last season. Jimmy was starting to find a rich vein of form when the injury ended his season early at home to Whitstable Town over the Christmas period. For the latter part of the year following his injury, the goalkeeping situation became somewhat unsettled with various players filling the gaps. The club wishes to thank Jimmy for his services.

Goalkeeper Matt Bromby ended speculation over his future by re-signed for Tunbridge Wells. Matt has signed exclusively for The Wells and will not dual-register with Tonbridge Angels.

Experienced midfielder Wayne Balmer has signed for Kent County League Rusthall. Balmer, a free-kick specialist, joins his brother Ian at Jockey Farm, as well as a number of other former Wells players.

First team manager Martin Farnie has left the club after two years at the helm. During his tenure, The Wells reached the Kent Senior Trophy final and won the Courier Cup for the first time - however, sustained improvement in league form over last season failed to materialise.

31/10/2007 - ROBBINS IS NEW BOSS
Chairman Nigel Bourne confirmed this evening that Mike Robbins has stepped up from the reserves to take over as first team manager. Earlier news from other websites suggested that this was an interim appointment. However, Mr. Bourne has now clarified that this is a permanent appointment. Robbins has enjoyed a highly successful start to management with The Wells Reserves, guiding the second string to a 100% start in the league. Martin Larkin also steps up with Robbins to become first team assistant manager.

With Mike Robbins appointed as the new first team manager at Tunbridge Wells, the former Rye United boss has spoken with us about how the appointment unfolded, and the way he plans to take the club forward. Formerly involved in the coaching set-ups at Western League Barnstaple Town, Gillingham Youth, Hythe Town, and as manager of Ashford Town's reserves, Robbins has enjoyed a highly successful start in his role as Tunbridge Wells reserve team manager this season. After inheriting a side in pre-season that had finished bottom of the reserves league, he has guided the side to six wins out of six in Kent League Division Two this season, and the side currently sits second behind Dover Athletic with games in hand. So what drew Robbins to Culverden Stadium in the first place? “Having left Rye, I enjoyed taking my time in choosing my next club, as I knew that I needed stability and wanted to stay with my next club for a long while - to be 100% committed to the cause. I felt that the reserves job here was the right choice, for both myself and my assistant, Martin Larkin. We have ambitions to coach/manage as high as possible.”

“I was offered the role of first team manager on Tuesday night. Initially, with the Dover game coming up on Saturday for the reserves, my thoughts were with that match, and so was my squad – so I was thinking about stepping up to the first team role at 5pm on Saturday,” explained Robbins. “However, after a two hour discussion on Wednesday morning with all parties involved, it was felt that it would be in everybody’s best interest to get things moving and take up the position in time for the VCD match on Saturday. The first team players were informed late on Tuesday night that it was the Board’s intention to appoint myself, along with the backroom team. I could not have felt better when the chairman (Nigel Bourne) wanted to know that my commitment to the club matched his belief in me, when taking this role. The last thing I want is to be looking over my shoulder whilst we get sorted out.”

In spite of the departure of Martin Farnie and assistant Steve Gibbons, Robbins revealed there would not be a wholesale change to the backroom staff. Martin Larkin will be assistant manager, but Andy Hall will remain as club physio and be part of the first team on match days, as will goalkeeper coach Alan Rogers. “I have spoken to both Alan and Andy, and I am very much looking forward to working with them.”

He also explained that Ben Hilden (currently out with a knee injury) and Adrian Hatcher would be in charge of the reserves for Saturday’s game at home to Dover with a little guidance from himself, and they will be steering the ship for at least the next two games while the club looks to appoint a permanent reserve team manager.

So what would Robbins key objectives be as he takes up the reins as first team boss? “As far as this season goes, we will be looking to produce a club that a) tries to play football, b) has competition all over the park, and c) has pride in the TWFC shirt they wear,” Robbins outlined. “As far as we are concerned, the season starts here. The players will need to work as hard now as they did in pre-season, to kick start the season. We are not in any way looking at wholesale changes, as we believe that initially a bit of tweaking here and there will get us off on a good footing. I am absolutely positive that we will shock a few teams along the way.

“Of Course, we will be looking at bringing in a couple of fresh faces possibly on loan from Isthmian League clubs at this stage, to add some quality to that competitive mix that we are seeking. But it goes without saying that the players here all have a clean slate, and those who were not in contention before will get their chances. All in all, we are very ambitious, and have full belief in ourselves and the squad that we have inherited. It will be a challenge, but we can’t wait to get started!”

Mike Robbins has made two signings. Joining the club are Danny White from Isthmian League outfit Chatham Town, and Anthony Pace from fellow Kent Leaguers Erith Town. White, 21, became Mike Robbins’ first signing since taking over the hot seat exactly a week ago. Danny operates as either a left back or a centre back, and has Conference experience at Gravesend & Northfleet (Ebbsfleet). He also played for Ashford Town and Dartford in the Isthmian League before joining The Chats in the summer. “Danny was my first target, as we needed a back four that knows that it defends first and foremost," said Robbins.

Meantime, Pace, 22, plays on the right wing, but can also operate down the middle. He has played Kent League football with Thamesmead Town and Faversham Town before joining Erith. He is aptly named, and Robbins expects him to be one of the fastest three players at the club.

13/11/2007 - TWO MORE SIGN
Joining the club are Terry Hawkey, 23, and Tony Ritrovato, 32. Terry generally plays at centre half, but can operate in midfield too. He includes Erith & Belvedere among his former clubs. Ritrovato can play at centre half and central midfield, and lists Ashford Town and Whitstable Town among his former clubs. Robbins, is also currently in talks with a Blue Square side about a possible loan signing.

22/11/2007 – OUTCOME OF EGM
A short statement from the club tonight reads: 'Gary Stevens withdrew his proposal and is looking at ways he can work with the club.'

30/11/2007 - NEW VICE-CHAIRMAN
Tunbridge Wells FC has wasted no time in beginning its process of re-structure by appointing Joe Croker to the position of Vice Chairman. It is our understanding that further additions are imminent and that, contrary to mutterings elsewhere on the web, there are strong foundations for a flourishing future. Joe has retired from a highly successful business career and his expertise, time and commitment is very much welcomed at Culverden Stadium.

Mike Robbins has signed three further players this past week. Joining The Wells are Aaron Chalk, Lee Ealham and Joe Hitchings. Chalk, 25, has played for Robbins before at Ashford Town and Rye United and as a midfielder or defender, offers tenacity as a part of his game.

Ealham, 32, brings no shortage of experience to the club, having played almost 500 games in non-league football as a forward, midfielder and defender. A player with his knowledge and experience should prove invaluable both on and off the field, according to Robbins. Hitchings, 18, is a central midfielder, and has joined on a short-term period from Ashford Town, who believe the player has a bright future ahead of him.

Joining Tunbridge Wells in time for Saturday’s game is attacking midfielder Barry Gardner, 21, from Ashford Town. Formerly on Crystal Palace’s books, Gardner has been a regular in the Ashford Town first team this season, and boasts almost 170 games in the Isthmian League (Premier and First Divisions). Along with Crystal Palace and Ashford, Gardner has also played for Bromley, Tooting & Mitcham and Cray Wanderers. Tunbridge Wells’ manager Mike Robbins revealed that although a bigger club from higher up the Pyramid was also interested in obtaining Gardner’s services, Barry ultimately chose to join The Wells because he believes in what the club is looking to achieve.

In addition, Matt Bromby has been offered new terms by the club. “Although there are always other clubs looking at players of Matt’s quality, he has committed himself to Tunbridge Wells,” explained Robbins.

At present, the Committee and Management at the club are reviewing the situation regarding player contracts. “We have several players now who are becoming invaluable to this club, both for now and for the future,” observed Robbins. “Having these players commit longer term - 18-24 months - to the cause here is the way to move this club forward. Although we’re only reviewing the contract idea at the moment, it’s just another indication of how this club is looking at ways to do things more professionally in the future - both on and off the pitch.”

Meantime, Brad Mortimer has left the club to join Sevenoaks Town.

The Wells will be using what was the Away Team dressing room from now on after the changing rooms were re-decorated. The decoration was largely carried out by Vice Chairman Joe Croker, and will hopefully aid Mike Robbins in creating the winning mentality that he is looking to build at Culverden.

Today, Mike Robbins has completed the signing of ex-Ashford Town and Cray Wanderers Striker Joby Thorogood. Joby, 22 is a natural goalscorer and has a reputation of scoring goals from nothing. He has scored over 60 goals in 160 apps in the isthmian leagues.

Tunbridge Wells have today appointed Vince Shell as reserve team manager. Having received more than fifteen applications for the job, First team boss Mike Robbins believes Vince is the right man for the job. He explained, “Vince is quality and a highly ambitious addition to the club.” Also linking up with The Wells in a playing capacity is former Gillingham youth team player Richard Boorman.

24/01/2008 – ONE IN, FOUR OUT
Tunbridge Wells have signed 19 year-old goalkeeper Adam Harris on loan from Maidstone United. Harris is highly rated by Stones manager Alan Walker, and kept a clean sheet on his debut for the reserves in their 1-0 win at Sittingbourne. Meantime, Mike Robbins has announced the departure of Richard Boorman to Isthmian League Sittingbourne; Gary Croxton and Anthony Pace have been released; while Tommy Fuller has joined near-neighbours Rusthall.

06/02/2008 – THREE JOIN
Goalkeeper Chris Arnold has signed for Tunbridge Wells to offer competition to Stewart Copeland for the first team spot. Arnold, formerly of Erith Town and Thamesmead Town, has trained with the club, and has already struck up a good relationship with Copeland. In addition two of the three other trialists who were training with the club have joined permanently. Lee Barber joins from Slade Green. Able to play in central midfield or the centre of defence, Barber, like Arnold, is an experienced Kent League player. Anthony Yarde is the other signing, and joins from Blue Square South outfit Bishop’s Stortford, initially as a squad player.

In other squad news, midfielder Joe Hitchings’ loan period has been extended to the end of the season, while goalkeeper Adam Harris has returned to Maidstone United. Joby Thorogood has been released by the club.

Jason Reynolds has joined Isthmian League North strugglers Waltham Forest. As Forest do not have a reserve team, Tunbridge Wells will retain Reynolds’ Kent League forms. The opportunity to play Ryman League football was something Reynolds believed he had to take after impressing Waltham in a trial.

Meanwhile, former Hythe Town, and Deal Town central defender Bryan Pearce has joined Tunbridge Wells from Faversham Town. “With Justin Shea due to go to University next year, Bryan Pearce has been bought in as a long-term solution”, Mike Robbins said.

20/03/2008 – WELLS SIGN STONE
Tunbridge Wells have snapped up former Carshalton Athletic, Ashford Town, and Bromley forward Adrian Stone from Erith Town. Stone scored against the Wells at Culverden two weeks ago to rescue a point for The Dockers. “We’ve taken a cheeky gamble on bringing Adrian in,” commented Wells manager Mike Robbins. “Martin Larkin and myself watched Adrian while working with the reserves and youth at Ashford. He was in the first team at the time, and he was what we thought to be amongst the best strikers in Kent at the time. Adrian needs a little work to regain both his past form and his fitness, but we think he’s well worth the risk, and will repay us for that effort.”

Meantime, Andy Boyle has left the club for Crowborough Athletic. Initially, the agreement was for Andy to be shared between the clubs, but it became clear that arrangement was going to become complicated on who had priority to his services, and Tunbridge Wells have released him.

At the end of October last year, Tunbridge Wells’ Chairman Nigel Bourne, backed by the handful of existing committee members at the time, made a tough decision to change the first team management in a bid to improve the fortunes of the ailing club. The move brought criticism from some quarters, and the run of poor results that followed during the rebuilding phase might well have had even the hardiest of supporters asking questions. However, with the season nearing its end, and the club now sitting comfortably in mid-table, those who have persevered at Culverden have been rewarded with a side that truly embodies what TWFC represents.

“It was my decision to sack Martin Farnie earlier in the season, and it was my decision to appoint Mike Robbins, Martin Larkin and to retain Alan Rogers,” Bourne explained. “Their jobs were made harder by the fact that some of the players left in support of the former manager, leaving the new management team with a squad of bare bones, and Mike's own reserve team players. But they have done a fantastic job over the months to turn around a struggling club and we’re now in a much better position, with more points than we’ve had for a few years. My decision to change over the management has been justified entirely.”

The fact that Tunbridge Wells has earned itself a mid-table spot this season doesn’t mean Bourne and his committee’s ambitions for the club have reached fulfilment, though. There is a long way to go before that happens. “Look at the performances in recent weeks,” remarks Bourne. “We taught Herne Bay a lesson at their place when we beat them 3-0, and we have shown we can hold our own against any other side in the Kent League - and that includes champions Thamesmead. I will be looking for this side to be pushing for the top places next year.”

It’s not uncommon to read about clubs in turmoil because the expectations of the management and committee don’t match up. However, Bourne is keen to point out that this won’t happen at Culverden. “I have my personal ambitions for the club to break into the top four next season, and yes, I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t happen - but there is an agreement at this club. The committee doesn’t interfere with the way the management handle the side, and the management don’t interfere in committee affairs. The committee is fully behind the management team here.”

Whether the target for next season is top six or top four, it will not happen without some deliberate building towards achieving those goals. Bourne identifies the formula for success on the following basis: “£100 extra per week on the players’ expenses budget should ensure a top six place. £200-£250 per week extra would enable us to push into the top three. Obviously, it’s not just a matter of money though - and we have plans in place for our facilities right now.

“In the summer, work will start on the pitch. It will be verti-drained. This involves a roller with pins being dragged across the surface - which will pull up strips of turf 1ft deep. That will be filled with sand to help with the drainage. In addition - probably for the following summer - our first team coach Carlos Lopez is connected with Arsenal, and if the money is in place, along with our groundsman, Del Farnie, Carlos’ contact will come down to Culverden and we’ll completely re-do the playing surface.

“Another area targeted for improvement is the training facilities”, Bourne continued. “We’re looking at installing a single astroturf training pitch behind the dugouts. Failing that, contingency plans are in place to rent a training surface.

“At the start of November, when the issues of ownership were uncertain, the club was a tired, worn out place to be. Now we have a better set-up, fantastic management, and have the potential for better facilities - all in the last six months. All this means we can attract better players. We have lots of players who want to join right now. But we are in a very strong position, because the players we have now can achieve the success we’re looking for - they’ve all done a superb job for us this season.”

It’s not uncommon for clubs to talk up their future prospects, when the reality is that no capital is in place to achieve them. It’s happened at Culverden before. But this time, the club looks to be pro-active in finding support from local businesses, with some new ideas on how to draw it. “The committee is holding a curry night, where we’ll host local businessmen. We have glossy brochures which will be handed out. They incorporate a club history, information about what is involved in the current running of the club, as well as our five-year ambitions. We’ll be inviting local businesses to be a part of an exciting future at the club.

“There’s a form at the back of the brochure offering sponsorship opportunities from just £5, through to far more prominent involvement and backing - such as assisting with construction of new changing facilities (including female changing), clubhouse extension, new stands, playing costs, training facilities and more. There’s a diagram of our plans for Culverden, and in due course this will be displayed on the website and in the local press.

"A further way of moving forward is for the club to become a Limited Company," Bourne adds. "This may happen in the close season, and while a name hasn't been decided upon yet, this club would move away from being committee-run, and have a board of directors instead. They would still be voted in by the members at the club, but it would serve to sharpen-up the way things are run here."

Talk of five-year ambitions naturally begs questions of what the side will look like, and how recognizable it will be to today’s side. Bourne is quite clear, “We have told Mike Robbins we will commit to him for five years initially. Mike has assembled a good, young side - one that we believe can form the basis of a side for several years. When we appointed Mike, the side was like a broken toy, but it’s been repaired, and now offers so much potential, potential that we will hopefully enjoy the benefits from for years to come - and we’re very happy with that!”

And beyond the immediate five-year plan? “For the start of next season, we’re building up our local links. We’ll be fielding youth sides from U13s up to adult, completely controlled and run by the club. The U13 side will be an Elite side - not just there, making up the numbers in its league, but drawing on the best youth the area has to offer. These will become the future of Tunbridge Wells Football Club,” Bourne concluded.

Thus, the club moves into the summer months, not to doze off until awoken by the first pre-season friendly, but to plan, prepare and execute strategies that ensure this time next year bolder targets are met and exceeded on the pitch, and off it. Rest assured, behind the scenes, it’ll be a busy few months at Culverden.

Mike Robbins has been handed the Kent League Manager of the Month award for April, following a month in which Tunbridge Wells enjoyed a run of six games unbeaten to end the season, and moved up to a tenth place in the table - a position that looked unlikely earlier in the year. The award caps a highly successful turnaround in the club's fortunes since Robbins’ appointment in November, and will undoubtedly set a milestone to be achieved and surpassed next season.

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